Explaining Life Through Analogies
My journey of writing and illustrating a series of inspirational books for young adults began when I was a public school teacher. I found myself using life analogies to explain some of the the more complex issues I knew my students were going through. One of the most prevalent were the emotional roller coasters I’d witness on a weekly basis. There were so many triggers. Acing a test in the morning brought on an ecstatic high while an disagreement with a friend at lunch would send emotions crashing.
I remember the day, filled with more drama than usual, when I sat my class down around the large poster easel in the front of the classroom. On it, I started to sketch the curves of a roller coaster. Explaining as I drew, I gave examples of some of the situations I knew many were going through. I did not judge. Instead, I validated their high and low emotions. When things were going well in their lives, they’d be at crest of the ride. When situations took a turn, they’d dip to the low points. Up and down I gave examples ~ life analogies ~ of their dramas. Then I stopped and turned to my class and asked. “What happens if you rode a roller coaster all day long and never got off?” Their response was immediate and echoed “You’d throw up”. “Exactly” I came back with. I then shared a better way ~ a better ‘ride’.
I flipped the pad of paper to a fresh page and drew a dot in the middle. “This is you” I began. I described what it is like to ride a sky dome ~ another life analogy. I drew a circle around the dot as representing the ride and explained that is also signified personal control of their emotions. I shared how within a skydome there is peace. It quietly moves up and down the shaft while the the amusement park carries on with its extreme noise and excessive movement. To illustrate this, I scribbled all around the center circle. I continued my life analogy by asking them to imagine how different their day-to-day life would be if they took control of their emotions and found that same kind of inner calm. No matter what might be happening in their life ~ good or bad, the highs and lows ~ they could always find peace within themselves. I knew that I hit a nerve by the quietness of the classroom. Most eyes were still fixed on the drawing as if contemplating, I shared that living this way is not always easy. In fact, it needs to be practiced just like many of their academic skills. I think they got it.
While the ‘talk’ ended in order to get to our afternoon special, I never forgot how tentatively my students had listened to the life analogies and how much I knew they needed that kind of practical advice. It was this that gave me the idea for my first book. Just as life analogies could be made with a roller coaster or a sky dome, I thought about what other lessons could be deemed from other rides or events. The ferris wheel has its highs and lows but with no end point other than stopping ~ much like addiction. Bumper cars signify competition ~ with each rider trying to out maneuver the rest. The arcade lures people in with temptation. Isn’t that peer pressure? The book on life’s analogies could have written itself. Hand drawings illustrated the rides while graphic design framed the lessons. It was a creative outlet with a purpose.
The following year, Life’s Amusement Park was published. I was excited to share this book of life analogies with my students. What I hadn’t anticipated was the overwhelming reaction from parents. Shortly after the book was made available, my room mothers surprised me with a book signing party. They set up a lemonade stand, a popcorn machine and a decorative booth with books that they purchased,~ all to capture the theme. It was heartwarming to hear how much the book’s messages resonated with a variety of age groups, including adults. I could not have been more grateful.
My journey of writing and illustrating books on life’s analogies for young adults continues, and I am excited to be blogging about this adventure. It is my hope that through my experiences ~ and especially through my books ~ I can inspire you to look at your life a bit differently. Perhaps with mindfulness, insight, and greater meaning!